Australia’s largest superannuation fund, AustralianSuper, has begun voting against the re-election of company directors to all-male boards in a bid to promote gender diversity and secure a better return on its investments.
Earlier this month, AustralianSuper voted against the re-election of Galaxy Resources chairman Martin Rowley at the company’s AGM and in April, the fund used its shares to vote against the re-election of Cimic Group chairman Marcelino Fernandez Verdes. While both men were re-elected despite the protest vote, it is a clear sign that the tide is turning against all-male company directors.
AustralianSuper has contacted 17 ASX-listed companies with all-male directors warning them they will face similar action unless they appoint a woman to their boards. Six of those 17 companies have since complied.
“It is our view that diversity matters not just as a social end in itself but in a value point of view. Diverse groups generally provide better outcomes than non-diverse groups,” Ian Silk, AustralianSuper chief executive, told the Financial Times.
“We are seeking to optimise the value of companies in the interests of our members. We are not seeking to cause problems for the sake of it,” he added.
Australia has tentatively set a guideline for 30 per cent female representation on company boards by 2018. As of 2016, women made up around 25.3 per cent of the total pool of company directors. Norway has a rate of 43 per cent of women on boards, followed by France at 41 per cent and Sweden at 37 per cent.
It is not just AustralianSuper leading the charge, either. The Australian Council of Superannuation Investors (ACSI), the umbrella group for a number of superannuation funds, has recommended its members vote against the re-election of company directors who sit on all-male boards.
ACSI chief executive Louise Davidson said the group will instruct its members to vote against any incumbent director who sits on an all-male board.
“We feel as though these companies have had more than adequate notice about our concerns in this area,” Ms Davidson told Fairfax Media.
“They have had more than enough time to get their house in order and have failed to do so.”
According to ACSI there are 13 companies in the ASX 200 that have no women directors, including telecommunications giant TPG, Cimic Group (formerly Leighton Holdings), Flight Centre, Investa and Qube Holdings.
What do you think? Are you happy with your super fund using your money to address gender inequality? Do you have other suggestions to increase the representation of women on company boards?